Signal upgrades begin at downtown intersections

Work to replace the traffic signals along Higgins Avenue in downtown Missoula began Monday. (Photo by Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

By Martin Kidston

Work to upgrade several downtown intersections with new traffic signals began Monday, as crews tore out and began replacing the sidewalk and curbing at the intersection of Pine Street and Higgins Avenue.

The $1 million project, awarded to Montana Lines, Inc., includes new signals at each of the three major intersections on Higgins, along with pedestrian crosswalks, accessible handicap ramps and beeping alerts for the vision impaired.

“There are some upgrades on Orange Street, and on Van Buren and Madison as well,” said Chester Orr, the project manager with Montana Lines. “There will be flashing turning arrows, but I don’t believe there’s a designated turn arrow.”

Ed Toavs, administrator for the Missoula District with the Montana Department of Transportation, said the work will modernize signal technology throughout the downtown district, allowing the mechanisms to better coordinate with traffic.

The federal aid project is being conducted with MDT and the city to improve safety at the four-way intersections.

“This will be the first step in two or three steps to have a more automated, coordinated system to do better with the traffic,” Toavs said. “Part of that project will time that signal at Broadway for left-hand turning.”

The project is one of several taking place in downtown Missoula. Just down Pine Street, the road is currently closed as the city constructs a new art park between the Missoula Art Museum and Adventure Cycling.

That project is expected to last through October, about the time the new traffic signals go online.

“Right now, we’re hoping to be done here on this intersection, with the concrete work, by the end of this week or next,” said Orr. “We’ll do Spruce next, then Broadway. We’re thinking we’ll have it all wrapped up by the end of October.

Orr said the black signal poles will go up last. The project could cause commuter delays in the downtown area. Those with questions or concerns can call 406-880-5475.